NYC Part 5: Broadway Show and Cocktails in Manhattan

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. Catch up now with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

After taking some cheesy photos and finding our way to our seats, Holly and I were able to take in the set of the Broadway musical, Once On This Island. (David was exploring downtown on his own, with plans to meet back up with us later on.) The setup was different than any theatre I’d been in before. The theatre is in the round (the audience surrounds the stage instead of being on one side of it) and is very open. Some of the cast was already on stage, milling around while the audience was settling in. The floor of the stage was covered in sand, and there was a “river” flowing in from one side. The first row of seats are on stage, with the audience seated with their feet in the sand. In addition to human cast members, there was a live chicken and a live goat on stage (my cousin’s favorite part)! I don’t have any pictures of the set because photos in the theatre are not allowed and they’re actually pretty strict about it.  The photo below is a model of the set that I found online.

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Once the audience was settled (the show was standing-room only, but luckily we had seats) the show began. During a storm, the village storytellers tell a frightened little girl the story of Ti Moune. Ti Moune is an orphan girl who was adopted by peasants from the peasant side of the island. The island is also home to the grands hommes, wealthy descendents of French settlers who live on the other half of the island. In a Romeo and Juliet style story, Ti Moune falls in love with a grand homme, Daniel. I don’t want to spoil the ending, although if you’re curious, the synopsis is available on Wikipedia. The performance was incredible and the fairly young leading actors had phenomenal voices and stage presences.

After the show, we waited by the stage door for the actors to (hopefully) come out and sign Playbills. The first to come out was Sparky the goat! We got to feed him some goat food and take a few photos. Next to come out was Phillip Boykin who played Tonton Julian, Ti Moune’s adoptive father. He was really nice, signed both of our Playbills, and took a photo with us! Unfortunately no one else came out, but I’m not that surprised since it was a matinee and they had an evening show to prepare for. I was disappointed that Isaac Powell (who played Daniel) didn’t make an appearance, since he went to high school with my best friend and they were in their school’s production of Pippin together.

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We met back up with David and decided to get drinks before Holly headed back to CT and we returned to our Airbnb. Holly picked the place, an Italian restaurant called Da Marino with allegedly really cool bathrooms. We sat at the bar and each had a cocktail. Holly had one of their signatures, an espresso martini, I had a cosmo, and David had a vodka tonic. We chatted with each other and with the bartender, who could tell we weren’t New Yorkers right away. We were the only ones at the bar, since it was like 6PM on a Sunday.

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David and I checked out the men’s and women’s restrooms respectively, and they were indeed pretty cool. The women’s room was like a fantasy enchanted forest. When I returned to the bar, the bartender was singing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” with piano accompaniment. She was great! I guess she came to New York to become a singer, but was bartending to pay the bills.

We left shortly after her performance, Holly to Connecticut, and David and I to Astoria. David and I picked up some ramen and snacks to eat at home, rather than trying to go out to eat again. We had a chill evening for our last night in New York.

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Read about our last day in the city in my next NYC post! (Update 5/20/18: part 6 is the final piece of the story!) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited New York before? Did you see a Broadway show? Where do you think the coolest bathrooms in New York are? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Once On This Island wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_on_This_Island
Once On This Island set photo: https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Broadway-By-Design-Dane-Laffrey-Clint-Ramos-Bring-ONCE-ON-THIS-ISLAND-from-Page-to-Stage-20171216

 

NYC Part 4: 9/11 Memorial, A Broadway Show, and More!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

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We slept in a bit on Sunday morning, knowing we’d need to be well-rested for another day of trekking around the city. We took the subway from Queens to downtown Manhattan so that we could visit the 9/11 memorial. On the site of the twin towers, there is now a single, functional skyscraper, a memorial museum, and two enormous, sunken waterfall pools. The pools are covered in the names of all of those who lost their lives during the attack in 2001. It wasn’t easy to see those huge memorials completely covered in names. The site is beautiful, but there’s something haunting about it.

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The Grand Central terminal was next on our list, so after a quiet and reflective morning, we headed back up to midtown. Grand Central is one of those very New York things you just have to see when you visit the city. We walked around for awhile, taking in the mural on the ceiling, the huge market downstairs, and of course, taking advantage of free public bathrooms.

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We met my cousin for lunch at a tiny (TINY) little pizza place called Patzeria Perfect Pizza on W 46th. She took the train in from New Haven that morning so we could spend the rest of the day together! The pizza place was so cramped, I’ve been in delivery-only pizza places with no dining room that had more space. But it was warm, cheap, and the pizza was really good. We managed to snag some tight seats on high stools at the table along the wall.

While we ate, we talked about our plans for the day. Holly (my cousin) and I wanted to see a matinee of a Broadway show. David was encouraged to come along, but insisted that he didn’t want to come. Holly and I had hoped to see Come From Away, but it was sold out. We talked about several different shows, but we both love theatre and would really be happy with anything. We settled on Once On This Island.

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After we finished our pizza, we headed back into the cold and over a few blocks to the Circle in the Square theatre, where we got tickets for the 3PM show. Knowing that left us at least an hour to kill, the three of us decided to just walk around. We went to Rockefeller center and watched people ice-skate, passed by the NBC building and Radio City Music Hall, just enjoying being in New York and catching up with Holly. By 2:15 we made our way back to the theatre, knowing the doors would open around 2:30PM.

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Holly and I said goodbye to David (who planned to see the NY Stock Exchange and explore the financial district) and headed into the theatre when the doors opened. Crowds of people swarmed into the warm lobby, showed their tickets, had their bags peeked in, and all headed to the restrooms on the bottom floor, as there’s no intermission. On our way back up, we had our pictures taken at this cheesy but super fun red-carpet style backdrop. We showed our tickets again, found our seats, and waited for the show to begin!

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Read about our experience with the show, fun with the alleged coolest bathrooms in NYC, and more in my next NYC post! (5/20/18 Update: The whole story is live!  See the final post, part 6 now.) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited New York before? Did you see a show? What is your favorite musical? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

NYC Part 3: Evening in Manhattan

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

After spending most of the day in Brooklyn, we took the Q train back into Manhattan. We had dinner plans with a friend of David’s on the Upper East Side that evening, but knew we had a little time to kill first, so we got off in Midtown Manhattan. I wanted David to see Times Square for the first time.

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We got off the subway at the Times Square station. I looked around the part of the city I was most familiar with and felt that deep, uniquely New York energy. Together with about a billion of our closest friends, we walked around Times Square. On a Saturday evening. Even in March it was ridiculously crowded. David said it reminded him of India, but was not as crowded or as hot (but he was in India in July and New York in March). We stopped into H&M (one of his favorite stores, because it’s Swedish) and looked around for a while.

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We went to the Disney Store which was insanely packed, even for the Disney store. I, of course, wanted to buy every princess item in the store, but walked out empty-handed. Next we visited the M&M store where, again, I wanted to buy everything in sight but, again, restrained myself. It’s like $8 for a magnet and $30 for a T-shirt and I’m not made of money. It’s so tourist-y, but God, I love Midtown. David wasn’t impressed though. He said it was like “any other big city.” Sigh.

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We took the subway uptown to the Upper East Side. We found our way to a little cafe called Alice’s Tea Cup to meet a friend of David’s. It is a cute little Alice In Wonderland themed tea shop, and they also offer sandwiches, soups, and salads. The food was good, but a little on the pricey side. I had a grilled cheese with vegetables on regular pre-sliced loaf bread and it was like $20. There’s no tipping, but still, it was a bit too expensive for what it was. I guess that’s New York for ya.

David and his friend split a pot of chocolate chai tea. I have never liked tea. I’ve tried it hot, I’ve tried it iced, I’ve tried it sweet, I’ve tried it with milk, I just do not like tea. They offered me some, but I had just a sip of David’s. It was pretty good, which is a huge endorsement from me because, as I said, I do not like tea.

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After dinner we headed down to the Village near NYU. We took tourist-y photos in Washington Square Park, then went to a bar called “Fat Black Pussycat” which is above The Comedy Cellar. We showed our ID’s at the door (the only time we were carded in NYC, surprisingly), then stood at the bar with a few beers.

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We chatted and drank for a while before David said “Is that that dude from 30 Rock? Frank?” We looked over to the table he indicated. In the dark bar, we weren’t sure, but it sure looked like him. “The one with the hats?” David’s friend asked. “Yeah, him…Judah Friedlander?” David answered. David’s friend suggested that perhaps he was performing at The Comedy Cellar downstairs. We checked it out, and it was totally him. (Getting excited over seeing a B-list celebrity in “the wild,” check).  Also, they had a Polish Beatles poster!

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We finished our beers, walked around the Village for a while, then headed back towards Queens. David’s friend was very concerned we’d get lost, but we didn’t. We ended up back in our Airbnb without incident.

Read about our adventures at the 9/11 memorial, Broadway, and more in my next NYC post! (Update 5/20/18: All posts posted!  See part 5 and part 6 now!) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited New York before? Did you have a celebrity sighting? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

NYC Part 2: Morning in Little Odessa & Afternoon in Coney Island

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Day 1 here.

On day 2, Saturday, we were ready to brave the subway. We’ve both traveled to cities with metro systems, together and independently, so despite coming from NC where people will clutch onto their giant pickup trucks in a cloud of smog before they use public transport, we were both familiar with the concept. However, New York City’s subway system is confusing as hell. There are a million lines, some of them are numbered, some lettered, all of them are colored, but there are multiple green lines, for example, so that’s not helpful. Thank God for Google Maps.

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We walked about 15 minutes to the subway station nearest to our Airbnb, then took the R train from Astoria, Queens into Manhattan, and the Q train all the way down through Brooklyn. Our stop was Brighton Beach also known as Little Odessa. Little Odessa is home to many Eastern European immigrants, especially those from Russia and Ukraine.

If someone had said to me “imagine a cross between Eastern Europe and New York City” I would’ve pictured Little Odessa, even before going there. We walked up and down the main street, under the raised train tracks. A variety of Slavic languages swirled around us; I didn’t hear anyone speaking English. There were tons of little convenience stores, delis, and shops. We went into a “department store” that was essentially an Eastern European style Walmart. David observed that it reminded him of similar stores in Serbia. They sold everything from underwear to kitchen appliances to pharmacy items and everything was very cheap by NYC standards.

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Next we stopped in a bookstore. They sold English books in Russian, Russian books in English, kid’s books, romance novels, adventure stories, language books, and Russian cultural books. David definitely enjoyed it more than I did, considering he speaks some Russian.

We left the bookstore in hopes of finding a good lunch spot. Many of the restaurants looked amazing, but were sit down and we didn’t really have the time or money for that. Others had folks lined up down the sidewalk, but didn’t have a dining room. Did I mention it was 40F and windy the entire weekend? We aren’t Russian, and I can’t quite enjoy eating outside in the cold wind. We finally found a little corner restaurant selling 2 slices of pizza and a soda for $5. Sold. The store owners seemed to be Russian, even though the food wasn’t.

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After walking around a bit more, we hopped back on the train to Coney Island (we totally could’ve walked, but woulda coulda shoulda, eh?). Since it was March, none of the rides were operating. Many of the shops and arcades were closed. It was a really cool way to experience an iconic piece of Americana.

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We visited one of the few shops that was open, a candy store. They sold all kinds of novelty candy; giant boxes of cereal marshmallows, giant gummy bears, a huge variety jelly beans and gummies, Harry Potter themed candy, alcohol themed candy, and a bunch more. We had fun looking around before stepping back into the wind. There was a cute cafe/restaurant down the street with great views of the still amusement park rides. David got a macchiato and I had a hot chocolate (I’m a kid at heart, what can I say?). We enjoyed our hot drinks and people-watched for a while.

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We had dinner plans with a friend of David’s in Manhattan that evening, so after finishing our drinks we went back to the train, which we road from Brooklyn back to Midtown Manhattan, so that David could see Times Square for the first time.

Read about our adventures in Times Square, the upper east side, and the village in my next NYC post! (5/20/18 update: the whole story has been posted!  See part 4, part 5, and part 6 now!) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited NYC before? What’s your favorite neighborhood? Did you brave the subway? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Weekend in NYC! Part 1: Getting There and Day 1 in Queens

This past weekend, my husband and I visited the Big Apple.  NYC.  New York.  THE City.  Is it obvious yet that New York is my absolute favorite city?  I’ve been about 5 times before this trip, and I would go again in a heartbeat. (Anyone want to buy me a plane ticket for next weekend….?)

A few weeks ago I was looking up cheap airline tickets, just for fun.  David and I had been hoping to do something for spring break, but all of our other plans had fallen through, and besides, we had different breaks (mine was last week and his is this week).  I looked just out of boredom, hoping to get an idea of what we could do for our next trip.  The site required me to put in dates, a departing airport, and a destination.  I picked our local airport and NYC, any airport, just to get an idea of the price point.  For 2 people, round trip, 2 weeks in advance it was $420, including fees.  We booked it 2 days later.

We were going to New York!! I was giddy for the two weeks while we last-minute planned our long weekend.  We booked an Airbnb for Friday-Monday, I asked off work for Monday, and we got in touch with friends and family in the area.  We each made a list of things we wanted to do/see and tried to match them up the best we could, knowing we would barely be able to get a taste of NYC in a single weekend, albeit a long one.  Our flights were early Friday morning and late Monday evening, giving us *almost* 4 full days.

NYC-Day1-Airport

Friday morning we woke up at 3:30AM to get to the airport by 4:30 for our 5:50AM flight with a layover in DC.  Unfortunately, even in the urban areas of central NC there are a grand total of ZERO Ubers or Lyfts at 4AM on a Friday morning.  ZERO.  We scrambled to drive to the airport, knowing we’d have to pay out the ass to park at the airport all weekend, also knowing we had no choice.

So we threw our backpacks in the car and drove to the airport.  We got through the surprisingly long line at security and to our gate, boarding exactly on time.  We then waited in the plane for two hours for American Airlines to get themselves together.  We finally took off, late, and arrived right when our connecting flight was leaving Ronald Reagan for LaGuardia.  Fabulous. 21 people on our flight were supposed to be on that connection and I must say American did nothing to help us other than quietly assign us to a new flight, which no one could access full information on.  The full story is a different story for a different day, but lemme just say #DisappointedAmericanAirlines

We finally got on the right plane, took off, and arrived at LaGuardia.  NEW YORK CITY, BABY!!

NYC at 9AM on a Friday is crawling with Lyfts and Ubers, so we had no problem getting a Lyft from the airport to the Airbnb to drop off our bags.  Then it was on to the adventure.  We weren’t quite ready to brave the NYC subway system, so we took an Uber (Uber has shared rides in NYC, which are cheaper.  Bring that to NC please!) to Jackson Heights, Queens, where there is a South Asian neighborhood and an AMAZING dosa restaurant, Dosa Delight.  I knew about the place because 4 or 5 summers ago I went there with my cousin, Holly.  We walked around the neighborhood for about 30-45 minutes, taking in the atmosphere and the culture.  Different languages swirled around us, and different people surrounded us on the streets.  We visited a couple of shops, just window shopping and killing time until the restaurant opened for lunch.

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We split an order of samosas, followed by different kinds of dosa.  David, of course, ordered like a pro, having spent last summer in India.  I stumbled through ordering something that I hoped wasn’t ridiculously spicy, but would still be authentic.  The samosas and dosa were amazing, and I would absolutely go back a third (and fourth and fifth…) time.

We ubered back to the Airbnb and crashed (we’d been up since 3:30AM!) until dinner time.  We were sick of paying for ubers and lyfts, and weren’t quite ready to brave the subway system at night, so we looked for food near us.  We were in Astoria, Queens, in a mostly residential area, but there were a few restaurants near us.  We found a pub in walking distance that looked reasonably priced and headed out, already starving again.

Dillingers Pub and Grill was about a block away.  It had a nice casual atmosphere, especially at 6PM.  They were playing pop music from about 2000-2010, so I knew basically every song.  It was a nice, nostalgic pick.  The food was great pub food; David had a burger while I enjoyed a buffalo chicken sandwich.  He got a beer and I had their rum punch, which was on special for $5.  The whole experience was very enjoyable, and we went home full and happy, but totally ready to shower and go to bed early.  We knew we had a big day ahead of us in Manhattan and Brooklyn!

NYC-Day1-RumPunch

Look out for future posts on the rest of our trip!  I can’t wait to share the full story with you.  (5/20/18 update: the whole story has been posted!  See part 2, part 3part 4, part 5, and part 6 now!) Have you been to NYC? What were your experiences there?  What’s your favorite city in the US?  The world?  Let me know in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this.

Destination: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Rishikesh: A quick look

Language: Hindi

Currency: Indian Rupee

Drinking Age: 21 in Uttarakhand (the state), but alcohol is banned within the city itself

Public Transportation: Rishikesh is very walkable, but taxi and shuttle services are available downtown. The closest airport is in Haridwar, about 20 km away.

Passport: Yes, US citizens are also required to obtain a tourist visa prior to arrival in India. For visits of fewer than 60 days, an electronic visa is the easiest and quickest to obtain

Vaccines: Routine, plus Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Malaria medication may also be necessary; visit your primary care physician prior to leaving your home country to receive vaccinations and recommendations for additional medications based on your specific trip itinerary.

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Before you leave:

Known as the “Valley of the Saints,” Rishikesh occupies the beginning of the Ganges river in the Himalayan foothills. In addition to being a very important area in Hinduism, Rishikesh is also a very popular spot for yoga and other spiritual education.

Remember that Rishikesh is a sacred city in Hinduism. Because of this, alcohol, drugs, and meat are banned in the city. Although alcohol and drugs are not hard to find if you know where to go, please be respectful of the culture, and do not use within Rishikesh.

Hostels are usually the best places to stay in Rishikesh. The one we stayed in was on top of the hill, which gave a wonderful view of the Ganges and the surrounding mountains. Many have AC, reliable Wifi, and breakfast included. In addition, a popular activity is studying yoga and mindfulness in an ashram, which often includes lodging.

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Once you get there:

Don’t be afraid of the street food. Classics like chaat, samosa, pav bhaji, and pani puri are all extremely cheap at street stalls. Be careful and ensure the food is hot, and you shouldn’t have any trouble. The best way to find the good stuff is to go with a local.

Use common sense to avoid scams. Scams are incredibly common in touristy parts of India, and Rishikesh is no different. Do some research beforehand on the most common ones and tips to avoid them.

  1. Beatles Ashram

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This is probably what Rishikesh is best known for in the United States. In 1968, the Beatles traveled to Rishikesh to study transcendental meditation. At the time called Maharishi’s International Academy of Meditation, it’s now simply known as “Beatles Ashram.” There is so much myth, legend, and controversy surrounding the Beatles in India that I can’t cover it all here. Everyone knows where Beatles Ashram is, and it’s definitely something to see when you’re in the area.

2. Trekking/Outdoor activities

Outdoors

Rishikesh sits next to the Ganges river, and right at the foothills of the Himalaya. This puts you in the perfect spot to enjoy activities such as trekking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and plenty of nature tours. You can find guides for these activities at the guide services downtown.

3. Mussoorie Hill Station

Mussoorie

Okay, so this isn’t technically in Rishikesh, but it’s close enough you can do it from the city. Hill stations are small towns that sit atop high mountains, mostly to keep them cool in the summer. It’s a really nice experience looking down the steep mountains into the valleys.

4. Kunjapuri Devi Temple

Kunjapuri temple

Kunjapuri Devi sits high atop a mountain, about a half hour drive from Rishikesh. You can charter a car to take you up there for about 1800 rupees, so try to go as a group to split the cost. The view from the top is *amazing.* A popular activity is to make it up there early in order to see the sunrise. On a clear day, you can see as far as China and Nepal. Culturally, it is the temple to Sati, the wife of Shiva. The super abridged version of the story is that Sati ended her own life after her father humiliated Shiva. After this, her father carried her body throughout the Himalaya, and pieces of it fell throughout the mountains in 52 different places, known as Shakti Peethas. These Shakti Peethas are found throughout Nepal and India. Kunjapuri Devi is where Sati’s chest is believed to have fallen.

5. Neer Garh Waterfall

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This is a great place to go to get out of the city and enjoy some beautiful Indian nature. After a steep hike, you’re rewarded with beautiful views of the waterfall and surrounding mountains. The water here is nice and clean, and it’s a popular place to jump in and cool off. All in all, it’s a fun place to explore for the day.

6. Visit the temples and bridges

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There are *tons* of temples in Rishikesh. Far too many to name in a short blog article, but I’ll rapid fire off some names to get you started. For temples, the popular ones are Badrinath, Parmath Niketan, Neelkanth Mahadev, and Tera Manzil. Even though it’s not a temple, the Lakshman Jhula bridge is a fun thing to see. A long suspension bridge that connects the two banks of the Ganges, it’s a cool place to get photos of the city and river.

Rishikesh is a great place to get out of the Golden Triangle and see what the rest of northern India has to offer. It’s a great stepping off point to go deeper into the Himalaya, head west into Punjab, or as a weekend jaunt from Delhi. It’s a must see for anybody traveling around northern India.

Disclaimer: I am far from an expert in Indian culture and Hinduism, so I apologize if any cultural facts are incorrect. Let us know in the comments!

Many thanks to David Anthony for creating this guide to Rishikesh, India.

Did you like this article? Have you visited Rishikesh? Tell us about it in the comments! Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Sources:
Beatles Ashram photo: http://www.haridwarrishikeshtourism.com/beatles-ashram-rishikesh.html

Rappelling in Rishikesh photo: https://www.thrillophilia.com/rappelling-in-rishikesh

Mussoorie Hill Station photo: https://www.euttaranchal.com/tourism/mussoorie.php

Rishikesh photo: http://industrips.com/rishikesh/

 

 

Photo Dump! Tikal, Guatemala.

Hello, Globetrotters!

My life is still balancing out; we found a car, but I’ve been sick all week, and found myself behind on homework.  I am working hard to bring you all great content in the coming months!

For this post I wanted to share with you photos from my recent trip to the historic site, Tikal, in Guatemala.  Located in a National park, Tikal is the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, thought to have been called Yax Mutal by the Mayan people.   It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.  Learn more about our trip to Tikal in A Quick Guide to Taking a Day Trip from Belize to Guatemala.  Please enjoy my travel photos!

-The Globetrotting Scientist

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The ancient Mayans studied astronomy.  They calculated the position of the sun based on the time of year.  The celebrated the Fall and Spring Equinox and the Summer and Winter Solstice.

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They built some of their temples and monuments based on the position of the sun at certain times of year.

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They used some structures to observe the stars.

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Today we have an amazing view of the rain forest.

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The entire site made up a large city in ancient Mayan times.  It was abandoned when the Spanish conquistadors began their conquest of Latin America.

20171215_132418 Much of the city hasn’t been excavated, due to the risk of erosion and high cost of maintenance. However, the city center (pictured above and below) has been mostly restored.

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The city was built by hand, on the backs of the lower-class workers.

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They did not use pack animals, so every stone was carried by humans.

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The average life expectancy of a lower class Mayan was 25-30 years, due to the nature of this hard labor.

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Today many Guatemalans have incorporated their historical Mayan culture into Catholicism.  When we visited, many locals were gathering to celebrate.

Did you enjoy this post?  Have you visited Guatemala before?  What about Tikal?  Tell me about it in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

How I Moved to India for 2 Months with Only a Backpack

A big thank you to David Anthony for sharing his packing skills in this post. If you would like to learn more about packing light, check out my posts: 6 Tips for Packing Light,  A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip, and Travel Mistakes I Made (So You Don’t Have to).

“Ounces make pounds” is a phrase that’s often thrown around in an infantry platoon, often by your team leader when you start trying to pack another hokey gadget. Spend enough time carrying around your life on your back, and you get a first-hand feel for the consequences of not packing light. In so many aspects of life, overpacking causes grief for a number of reasons.

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This past summer, I completed the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in India. Besides goals like learn as much Urdu as possible and eat my own body weight in chaat, I had another specific goal: successfully survive and thrive in India for two months with only a 38L carry on sized backpack. To do that, I had to be very diligent in which clothing and gadgets I took. I didn’t skimp though. I had my computer, clothing for a week, a towel, business casual clothing, and space for souvenirs. Sure, I didn’t have eight pairs of shoes or a personalized bathrobe, but you don’t need that stuff to travel. Trust me.

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For clothing, the best advice I can give can be summed up in a few key points: make it interchangeable, bring lightweight stuff, and roll it up. Lay out all the clothing you plan to take with you. Now, close your eyes, mix it all up, and pull out a random shirt and a random pair of pants. If they don’t go together, your stuff isn’t interchangeable. This rule should apply for everything you bring. Every single thing should work with everything else. This will give you more options with less clothing. In India, I had about four button up shirts, two or three t shirts, four pairs of pants, and a single t shirt and shorts for working out. You’ll have to do laundry, but you probably do that about once a week anyway (right???). I also took a comfortable pair of running shoes I could use for walking around the city and a pair of flip flops (sandals are very common in India). The final tip for clothing is to roll it instead of folding. For my grunts out there, we all know the Ranger roll is superior to folding. The same applies to packing for travel. Linked is an instructional video about rolling clothing.

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In India, I knew that I’d be spending most of my time in class. The city I was in was also not exactly known for its thrilling adventure, so I knew I would need something to keep me busy. For me, that was my phone and computer. On my phone, I kept the Amazon Kindle app, which had several books for reading while trying to adjust to the jet lag. For a computer, you want to take something lightweight and durable. I personally had a Chromebook. While big PCs and Macbooks are nice, they aren’t always light or easily replaceable. Chromebooks, being tied to your Google account, are a snap to replace if they break or are stolen. Simply log into a new computer with your Google account, and it will instantly start to backup your stuff. They’re also cheap. For my coders out there, it’s easy to install a custom Linux distro called GalliumOS on a Chromebook, really allowing you to unlock its potential. Light, durable, flexible, and easy to replace. No computer is perfect, but for those who are planning to travel light, the Chromebook is close.

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The fact that I was moving to India made things much simpler than if I was backpacking from city to city every few days. I could afford to spread out a bit and get comfortable. Knowing this, I intentionally packed very light in terms of toiletries. I really only took some travel sized items to use if I got stranded in an airport for the night. The best thing to do is buy most of your toiletries once you get to your destination. Not only will this save room in your bag, but exploring the shops is a great way to get to know a new city. I also only packed a small microfiber towel, and upon arrival in India, I bought a larger bath towel for everyday use. Many sundry items are also going to be cheaper abroad than they are in North America. If you’re concerned with having to throw it all away when you leave, look into donating them to an NGO or non-profit. My classmates and I gathered all of our unused toiletries as we were leaving the country and donated them, meaning there’s no issues with having to use up an entire bottle of shampoo before you leave.

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The principles for longer term stays are the same as the ones for short jaunts: be a fanatic about weight and space; always assess and reassess if you really need the things you’re packing; try to pack items that are as multipurpose as possible; and trim down the items you can buy once you’re in-country. It’s that simple. So get out there, start paring your stuff down, and enjoy the simplicity of lightweight travel!

Did you enjoy this post?  What are you hacks for packing light?  Share them in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon link in the body of this post and make purchases through it, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Shout-outs:
Microfiber towel link: http://amzn.to/2DCHvdv
Ranger roll video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq07hyTlrcU
Rolled clothing image: http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/57992-Clothes-Storage-for-travel
Travel-sized toiletries photo: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/5-tips-to-travel-size-toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas/

 

Destination: Knoxville. Part II: International Eats

Knoxville, TN is one of my personal favorite destinations. It’s a bit of a hidden gem in the south: people tend to focus on Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, or beach towns like Myrtle Beach, Miami, and Charleston when planning visits to the southeast, but Knoxville has a lot to offer. If you’re interested in a general guide to Knoxville, including entertainment, museums, bars, restaurants and general tips, check out my Destination: Knoxville post here.

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If you’re interested in out-of-the-way, unique, international eateries and markets, Knoxville has you covered, and so do I. See below my recommendations for cool places to eat and shop.

Quality Turkish Market

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The folks are Quality Turkish Market are very kind and helpful, especially to a noob like myself who had never tried Turkish food before. The setup is order at the counter and pay in advance, but the food is, as the name suggests, quality. It’s delicious and filling, even the 100% vegetarian dish I enjoyed. They also have a small market area where you can buy imported sodas, candies, and other non-perishable treats.

Gosh Ethiopian

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Have you ever tried Ethiopian food? You should, and you should start at Gosh. They have lots of options and simple explanations of the unfamiliar food. Get ready to eat with your hands!

Sitar Indian Cuisine

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Sitar serves up traditional Punjabi dishes, just what most Americans expect when they sit down at an Indian restaurant. I would recommend starting with Samosas, which are crispy turnovers stuffed with potatoes and veggies. Our table devoured ours in record time. For main courses they have a variety of curry dishes, many vegetarian, but plenty of meat-lovers’ options: lamb, chicken, shrimp, etc.

Indian Grocery

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The Indian Grocery on Kingston Pike is quite large; this is no corner store. They offer many fresh, non-perishable dry goods, and frozen ready-to-eat meals. The selection is impressive, and there are plenty of options for the novice cook!

Holy Land Market

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This middle Eastern/Mediterranean market features a grocery section and a small deli. You can pick from an impressive array of olives, teas, and Turkish Delight, as well as many other grocery items.

What are your favorite international restaurants and markets in Knoxville? What about your hometown? Share with me in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Shout-outs!

A big thank you to Maria Grissino for allowing me to use her photo of the Tennessee Theatre as my featured photo on this post!

Original Destination: Knox: https://theglobetrottingscientist.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/destination-knoxville-tn-usa/

World’s Fair Flags Photo: http://www.knoxvilletennessee.com/downtown/worlds-fair-park.html

Sitar Indian Image: https://smokymountains.com/restaurants/sitar-indian-cuisine/

Destination: San Ignacio, Belize

San Ignacio: A quick look

Language: English*
Currency: Belizean Dollar
Drinking Age: 18
Public Transportation: Most Belizeans use “chicken buses,” old school buses that ply the major cities several times a day. Price varies depending on how far you go, but are always very cheap
Passport: Yes, US citizens can stay in Belize for up to 30 days without a visa
Vaccines: Routine

*The locals speak Belizean creole with each other, but generally speak perfect English

Before you leave:

Stay with Airbnb! San Ignacio has many cheap Airbnb options; I even found them to be cheaper than hostels for 2 people. (If you sign up using my link you’ll get a $40 credit and I could receive a small compensation as well.)

To get to San Ignacio from the Belize City airport, we hired a shuttle through Belize Shuttle and Transfers, which was $35USD/person. It was clean, air-conditioned, and we were dropped off right in front of our Airbnb.

Every time you exit Belize, you must pay a $40BZ ($20 USD) exit fee. It is not a scam! Even if you exit and re-enter on the same day, this fee applies. It also applies when you fly, although airlines typically include this fee in the price of your ticket.

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Once you get there:

San Ignacio isn’t very big, so walking is the best way to get around. It’s very hilly, so often it feels more like hiking, but the views are fantastic and a little exercise never hurt anyone. If it becomes overwhelming, there are a plethora of taxis and the drivers are very kind.

The Belizean dollar is tied to the US dollar at a fixed exchange rate of $2BZ to $1USD. Many places in Belize accept USD for this reason.

  1. Cahal PechCahalPechDid you know there are Mayan ruins right in San Ignacio? We were able to walk from our Airbnb to the Cahal Pech ruins in San Ignacio. There’s a museum where you pay your entrance fee ($10BZ/person), can learn about Mayan history, and observe many of the artifacts that were discovered on site. You’re then free to walk around the ruins for as long as you like, with or without a tour guide. They aren’t very spread out, so it’s mostly exploring the ruins themselves, many of which are open and you can climb on top or inside.
  2. The Green Iguana Conservation ProjectgnomeGreen iguanas are endangered in Belize. This is due mostly to the local custom of eating iguanas, which they call “bamboo chicken.” The Green Iguana Project is a non-government organization dedicated to preserving green iguanas in Belize. It’s located outside of a hotel, and tours are offered about every hour for $9USD/person. You must visit with a tour guide. There is an iguana house with many green iguanas, including Gnome, a 10lbs, 5ft long male iguana, who is fabulous with people. Everyone on our tour was able to hold him, and he was very docile the entire time. If you want a unique opportunity, visiting the iguanas definitely fits the bill.
  3. AJAW Chocolate and CraftsAJAW.jpgWe stopped by AJAW Chocolate and Crafts hoping to pick up some local chocolate. What we found was so much better. They offer tours where you learn the ins and outs of traditional Mayan drinking chocolate, made with cocoa beans grown in southern Belize. They take you through step by step from fruit to drinking chocolate, with lots of taste test opportunities along the way. We even got to help grind the chocolate on a traditional volcanic rock. Then, you are able to try the chocolate with and without honey, cinnamon, allspice, and chili flakes. Finally, you’re given a sample of chocolate to take home. It’s a fantastic way to learn about traditional Mayan chocolate making.
  4. Farmer’s MarketSan-Ignacio-Farmers-Market-localsEvery day except Sunday a huge Farmer’s Market is open in downtown San Ignacio. You can buy everything from local fruits and veggies to crafts in this traditional farmer’s market. We visited during the week, but I’ve been told Saturday is the best day to go.
  5. KayakingkayakingAlthough we didn’t get a chance to do it, several tour companies in San Ignacio offer a kayaking trip down the river just outside the town. If you’re looking for some adventure in nature, this is your chance to do it!
  6. ATM CavesATM-Cave-Expedition-Viva-BelizeThis was another thing we didn’t get to try, but that absolutely everybody recommended. Considered one of the Top Ten Caves in the World by the National Geographic Society, it’s full of Mayan artifacts and stunning nature. Due to safety concerns, you must go with a guide. Virtually every guide service in Belize runs tours to this area, though.

Restaurants:

  1. Montero’s BBQmontero-s-bbqIt’s not always easy to GPS your way around San Ignacio, but this family-owned streetside barbeque joint is worth going off the beaten path for. It’s located “up the hill” near La Sante Pharmacy on Benque Viejo Rd. They offer just about anything you can throw on the grill including $3BZ burritos packed with chicken, beans, and veggies, stuffed jalapenos, local beer, and mixed drinks. Belikin is the beer of choice for Belizeans and you can get a bucket of 7 for $20BZ during happy hour at Montero’s. They offer local rums, and can mix up a rum and Coke, local favorite called the “Panty Ripper” which is fruity and tropical, or basically whatever you want, just ask. If you want to eat like a local, go straight to Montero’s.
  2. Eva’s Restaurant20171217_175537Eva’s is located downtown on the pedestrian street, Burns Ave. It’s a bit more tourist-y, but they offer a selection of Belizean food, beers, and mixed drinks. I had the most amazing quesadilla of my life, while my husband had stewed chicken (a Belizean staple) and a Belikin stout.
  3. SerendibStewedChickenSerendib is across the street from Eva’s, and is an Indian restaurant. While they offer many curry dishes, they also have Belizean food, and their stewed chicken is amazing.
  4. Pizza place next to Sweet Ting on Benque Viejo Rd20171216_171428_hdr.jpgCheap, made-to-order pizza in what looks like someone’s kitchen. They aren’t open all the time (on Sunday there was a yard sale going on out front) but it’s worth stopping by if you catch them.

If you are in Belize, you absolutely must go to San Ignacio.  It’s such a cool city that really captures Belizean culture, and its rich Mayan history.  The locals are friendly and genuine, and there’s a lot to do without being overly tourist-y.

Shout-outs!

San Ignacio Farmer’s Market Photo: http://rumorsresort.com/san-ignacio-farmers-market-2/

ATM Caves photo: http://www.vivabelize.com/tours-activities/atm-cave-expedition/